Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We Need a Healthier Understanding of People With ADHD

The collective voice of self-advocates to reframe disabilities seems to continue to gain volume and force.  Below is an excellent Ted Talk by Stephen Tonti about reframing ADHD.

Part way through the video Stephen mentions that he was "lucky" because he had parents and teachers who understood and nurtured him.  He then speaks about Adam and the environment he grew up in and culminates that section of his talk with a statement his teacher made related to whether his medication was working or not: "Adam is less motivated, less animated and less involved in class... but at least he is quiet."  At this point, Adam is an adult and although the statement could be analyzed and/or judged, I think the point of the matter is that Adam is an adult and this is still such a part of his narrative that he sits around with his roommate discussing it.  Stephen speaks of his many explorations throughout his childhood while it seems that Adam remembers disciplinary actions and not living up to the expectation to conform. 

Stephen's plea to develop a healthier understanding of ADHD is not a lone voice.  A while back, I posted a video of Jonathan Mooney speaking to his own experiences and beliefs about how we can create environments that will allow an increasing number of students to develop themselves as effective learners.

Rather than trying to fix students perhaps we should take a lesson from Ken Robinson (video below) and ask "What are the student's strengths and how can they be used to create a sense of connection, worth and self-efficacy?"  Can students really learn if they do not feel good about themselves? 

The reality is that strengths develop as people try to right themselves. The reason people practice or dig in to the thing they love for hours on end is to be able to do it better.  The processes that a person uses to develop their strengths is the critical piece as they will come to see their own autonomous ability to right themselves and these processes can be applied in so many other places. 

The reality is that the motivation to grow and learn for anyone comes from feeling good about oneself.  It seems to be that when supporting students our first question should be "How can we help this student to feel good about themselves?"  That way, eventually we can work with the student to find solutions and draw on the experiences that he/she has in "righting themselves" through strength development.

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